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Which Federal COVID-19-Related Laws and Regulations Are Still in Effect?

Since the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has taken steps to mitigate its impact and provide relief.

This led to a surge of legislation and guidance that either temporarily or permanently changed the landscape for health and welfare benefits. Some of these changes were mandatory while others were optional for health plans to adopt.

To add to this complexity, many of these deadlines were extended to deal with the ongoing pandemic creating further administrative challenges for health plans and issuers.

The tables below provide an overview of which major COVID-19-related changes remain in effect and others that have expired. Employers should be vigilant of these rules to determine their compliance obligations and assess which relief they can still take advantage of for their business and employees.

Still in Effect: Mandatory

COVID-19 Relief Description Effective Dates
“Outbreak Period” Extension for certain key employee benefit deadlines
  • COBRA elections;
  • COBRA payment;
  • HIPAA special enrollment rights periods; and
  • Claims procedures

DOL and IRS - jointly issued a joint rule, formal notice, and FAQs tolling certain key employee benefits deadlines

The formal notice was later clarified and the COBRA election and premium payment dates were clarified and extended

Outbreak Period: March 1, 2020 – 60 days after announced end of pandemic (still ongoing)

Expiration measured individually:

  • 1 year from date individual is first eligible for relief OR
  • End of Outbreak Period

1st COBRA payment:

  • Outside 60-day period: 1 year and 105 days (60-day election period + 45-day initial payment period) from receipt of COBRA notice
  • Within 60-day period: 1 year and 45 days from receipt of COBRA notice

Cannot be due before November 1, 2021

Coverage of COVID-19 Vaccines and Preventative Services CARES Act - all health plans are required to fully cover COVID-19 vaccines and preventative services, regardless of whether the service is provided in-network or out-of-network

See DOL - FAQs

March 27, 2020
Coverage of COVID-19 Testing CARES Act - all health plans are required to fully cover COVID-19 testing for enrollees

See DOL - FAQs

March 27, 2020

Still in Effect: Optional

Wellness Incentives/Surcharges Applicable to COVID-19 Vaccines DOL, HHS, Treasury - FAQs confirmed that COVID-19 incentives/surcharges are considered health-contingent, activity-based wellness programs under final wellness program rules October 4, 2021
HIPAA Privacy FAQs on COVID-19 Vaccinations HIPAA Privacy Rules do not prevent any person or entity from inquiring into an individual’s vaccine status, including COVID-19

See HHS - FAQs

September 30, 2021
COVID-19 Related PPE Treated as Qualified Medical Expense COVID-19 related Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks, hand sanitizers, and sanitizing wipes can be treated as a qualified medical expense under IRC Code Section 213(d)

See IRS – Announcement 2021-7

January 1, 2020 (retroactive amendment no later than last date of first calendar year beginning after effective date)

Newly Effective in 2022: Mandatory

COVID-19 Relief Description Effective Dates
Coverage of OTC COVID-19 Tests HHS, DOL, and Treasury – in response to the President Biden Administration’s directive, they collectively released FAQs requiring health plans and health insurance issuers to cover 8 OTC COVID-19 tests per 30-day period per individual beneficiary January 15, 2022

Newly Effective in 2022: Optional

HDHP First Dollar Telehealth Coverage CAA (2022) – permits HDHPs to cover telehealth and other remote care services prior to members reaching deductible

* Similar to expired provision under the CARES Act

April – December 2022

Expired: Mandatory

COVID-19 Relief Description Effective Dates
COBRA Subsidy ARPA - required employers to subsidize the full cost of COBRA for individuals who lost coverage due to a reduction in hours or involuntary termination and provided a process for employers to seek a tax credit

See DOL – FAQs

See IRS – Notice 2021-31 & Notice 2021-46

April 1 – September 30, 2021
Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act FFCRA - employers with fewer than 500 employees were required to provide paid leave for certain qualifying reasons related to the pandemic and could seek a tax credit

See DOL – FAQs

*Four key provisions of the DOL regulations were struck down

April 1 – December 31, 2020
Age Limit Relief Under DCAPs CAA (2021) – permitted DCAP reimbursements, normally for dependents under age 12, to be applied to dependents turning 13

See IRS – Notice 2021-15

2020 (allowed carryover of unused funds to 2021 for reimbursement until dependent turned 13)
Unlimited 12-Month FSA Carryover or Grace Period CAA (2021) – permitted FSAs to allow for the carryover of funds without limit or extended grace periods

See IRS – Notice 2021-15

Carryover – unused funds from 2020 to 2021 and 2021 to 2022

Grace period – add or extend for 2020 and/or 2021 plan years

Expired: Optional

Relaxed Cafeteria Plan Election Rules IRS – Notice 2020-29 and Notice 2021-15 provided Section 125 mid-year election change relief IRS Notice 2020-29 for 2020 and IRS Notice 2021-15 for 2021
HDHP First Dollar Telehealth Coverage CARES Act - permitted HDHPs to cover telehealth and other remote care services prior to members reaching deductible

See DOL - FAQs

Plan years beginning on or before December 31, 2021 (can make retroactive to January 1, 2020)
Increased DCAP Contribution Limit ARPA - permitted DCAP contributions to be increased from $5,000 to $10,500 (or from $2,500 to $5,250 for individuals who are married but filing separately).

See IRS – Notice 2021-26

2021

For additional resources and guidance related to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit OneDigital’s Coronavirus Advisory Hub. As always, if you have additional questions pertaining to your plan or circumstances, please reach out to your OneDigital consultant.

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